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TOPPER’S STRATEGY: Pratibha Rani, Rank 78, UPSC CSE-2017, Insights Offline Student, Third Attempt, Failed in Two Prelims



Insights Offline Student, Third Attempt, Failed in Two Prelims

Pratibha Rani, Rank 78, UPSC CSE-2017


Hello Everyone,


Let me first introduce myself. I am Pratibha, an engineer by education and worked for Samsung for almost 2 years. Some small engagements with NGOs while I was working created the urge to do more and I quit my job. After a few efforts in education sector, I finally decided to sit for the Civil Services Exam and wrote my first prelims in 2015. After 2 failed prelims I finally reached AIR 78 in my third attempt.

Like any exam this exam also has 2 important aspects – Preparation and Performance. While you prepare your level best, it is equally important to stay calm in the exam hall, understand and internalize that there is nothing like “fully prepared” in this exam and be healthy to be able to perform  your level best. Always enter the exam hall with a smile and a sense of satisfaction for the hard work you have put in. An earlier motivational post in Insights said – “Lady Luck favors those who smile” 🙂 So, keep smiling and be happy no matter what!


1. Focus on the fundamentals : Read the NCERTs (they are the best books for this exam) and follow current affairs from any source you are comfortable with. Strong base will help you everywhere esp in the Interview where questions can be asked from anywhere and a strong foundation will help you tackle them well.

2. Revise : Rather that looking for innumerable material available in the market, read multiple times from one source. This helps in developing good understanding of the subject and you will also retain more.

3. Practice: This is important for all the stages – Prelims, Mains and Interview and helps in understanding our strengths and weaknesses. Insights Prelims Test Series and Daily Secure Initiative are the best medium to practice and hone your skills for the exam because they cover the syllabus holistically and help you organize your preparation in a methodical manner. Also, herein don’t forget the Previous Year Papers of UPSC.

4. Balance : Focus on all the stages and all the subjects. With increasing competition, it is important to focus on all stages and not take any chances. Devote 2 months before prelims exclusively for prelims and try writing 2-4 answers everyday for about 100 days to improve your writing skills. 

5. Peer Group : With questions in UPSC getting more analytical, the importance of discussions in small peer groups have grown. Making a group of 2-5 sincere aspirants helps develop better understanding of topics and approach any subject from multiple dimensions. It also makes the preparation easy as the tea breaks post discussions help relieve daily stress 🙂

6. Stay Cool : While you should study as much as you can, don’t force yourself when you can’t concentrate. Go out, have an ice cream, watch a movie, talk to your friends or family or anything to relieve your stress. Always try to be happy and calm.


I came to Insights in 2016 and entered the Core Group Batch. It was a very warm and competitive environment wherein everyone tries to put their best efforts to emerge victorious in the exam. We had people like Nandini K R (Rank-1, CSE-2016) among us writing tests regularly. We were supposed to write Secure answers daily, 1 Essay on each Sunday and there were weekly tests for GS and Essay. All this ran parallel with Insights Prelims Test Series which prepared us for Prelims. The weekly tests made us revise the syllabus we covered weekly and also helped to improve writing skills. Post test discussions helped in collating best out of different aspirants and gather better content for answer writing. 

I had a small group for Prelims preparation wherein we discussed Mock test papers post every test. We shared how we approached the question without looking at solutions. It helped immensely in improving skills of elimination and understanding how even unknown questions can be approached and attempted correctly in Prelims.

For Mains, Mains Test Series at Insights helps in a variety of ways. First, it helps improve speed because of progressive tests starting with 10 questions, then 15 and finally 20. Second, it helps to finish syllabus methodically by dividing syllabus into small manageable fragments at initial level. Third, multiple iterations helps to revise the syllabus again and again. Four, the detailed solutions have some very good examples from standard sources which help in content enrichment. Last, reviews by Vinay Sir as and when possible helps to identify and correct the mistakes.

All these together make a very good preparation and can help you sail easily through Mains. Also, I got immense support of my friends there through answer reviews, discussions  and constant motivation to keep going.

Finally, Insights and Bengaluru is a very nice place to study with a bunch of sincere aspirants creating a positive and competitive environment. Along with this, Vinay Sir is extremely helpful and inspiring and stands like a true teacher trying to take every possible effort to make the process easy for us. Thank you so much Sir for helping so many realize their dreams 🙂

pratibha rani IAS topper, UPSC topper pratibha rani, IAS rank 78 pratibha rani

pratibha rani IAS, insights offline pratibha rani


1. Ancient & Medieval History : Tamil Nadu Textbook, Old NCERT by RS Sharma

2. Modern History : Class 12 Old NCERT (Bipin Chandra) and India’s struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra

3. Art & Culture : CCRT (for Mains), Class 11 NCERT, Nitin Singhania Notes

4. Geography : Class 6 to 12 NCERT, GC Leong, Atlas

5. Polity : Laxmikanth and relevant NCERT books

6. Economy : NCERT – Introductory Macroeconomics, Vajiram Notes

7. Environment : NCERT (selected chapters) + Shankar IAS Material

8. Science & Tech : NCERT Class 6-10 + selected chapters from Class 11th and 12th

9. Current Affairs : The Hindu, Insights Daily Current Affairs, Insights Daily Quiz (as much as I could do), Vision Monthly booklets

10. World History : Old NCERT (Arjun Dev) + Vajiram Notes + Vision Material 

11. Sociology : Mohapatra Sir’s Notes, Haralambos Orange book and IGNOU Material as per requirement, Previous year UPSC papers for practice, Essential Sociology by Nitin Sangwan for Paper 2. Apart from these I took Shankar IAS Test Series before Mains.

Apart from these I relied a lot on online content to collect information and understand concepts.

1. Investopedia is good for understanding economic terms.

2. Youtube to understand concepts eg. Videos on Quantum Computing or El Nino help understand the concepts better.

3. TED Talks for examples on Essay or Ethics.

4. is good for examples.

5. Google 😀

Lastly, I would say that preparing for civil services is a journey from which no one comes out empty handed – everyone gets a lot of lessons and experiences to lead a happy and successful life. So, I want to congratulate you all for deciding to take this journey. Cherish every moment of life. Stay happy, Stay blessed. All the very best!!

In case of any query, reach me at